Over the next few days I began to get to know the members of the village in the forest. There were some who I instantly bonded with, like the woman I was sharing a hut with. Tia was twenty, and had joined the resistance two years ago after her fiance had been murdered brutally by one of the King's men. Nothing was done when she demanded that he paid for his actions, and in desperation she had turned to the outlaws for help.
Tia and I were in charge of cooking for the camp, along with an old woman named Ingrid. Her entire village had been set alight by the army, and she had barely escaped with her life. Ugly burns covered her arms from where she had attempted to pull her grandchild from the flames. Tia had told me this when I had asked her, and I knew better than to mention it to Ingrid herself. Sometimes I caught her staring in to the flames with such a look in her eye that it made me afraid to be near her when she held a knife. I had no doubt that if she had the chance, she would kill the king herself.
The villagers lived a simple life, as outcasts they were unable to enter the villages to get materials or food, and therefore were not able to simply buy their food. Hunts were organised from which the men would bring back boars and deer to feed the company, while gatherers would bring berries, nuts and roots for medicines, food and dyes in clothing. With Tia and Ingrid I would make stews and roasted meats to keep our village strong, and Ingrid's friends Mirna and Kiri would make them well with their medicines. We lived a good life, despite the simplicity.
One night, as we sat with our bowls of stew round the fire I saw a young boy run up to Ullrick and whisper in his ear. He in turn muttered something to Ramona who stood and silently left the circle with the warrior. I watched them, only breaking my gaze as I felt eyes upon me. I cast around to see who was watching me intently, and my eyes fell on Althea's hooded gaze. She sat apart from the rest of us, near the hut she lived in alone. One delicate hand slid from the folds of the cloak and made a quick gesture for me to come closer. I stood and went to her.
"You are a curious girl Ophelia."
"I am sorry."
"It is not something to be sorry for, unless it gets you in to trouble."
"I shall try to keep it in check." I strained to see under Althea's hood. Since she had collected me from the stream and presented me to Ramona, I had not seen her face, as she was constantly covered in her cloak. Althea lifted her head and pushed back the hood. Her eyes dazzled me once more.
"Do you know that magical people attract other magical people?"
"What do you mean?"
"The way you look upon me, the way you feel you have to see my face, it suggests you have magic inside of you."
"No! I can't..." My voice was loud and startled some of the people sitting near by. They looked away when Althea looked at them. "I can't have magic." I continued in a hushed tone.
"We shall see. If you do, you will need to be trained. How long till your eighteenth birthday?"
"My eighteenth birthday is next week. But why?"
"Magic generally shows itself on your eighteenth birthday. It is only then that I will know whether you are magic or not, and what type of magic you have."
"There are types?"
"Yes. Walk with me. I will explain this away from prying ears."